A new, wheelchair accessible path has opened at Fjaðrárgljúfur, a popular canyon in southeastern Iceland.
The path runs from road Lakavegur to an observation deck above the canyon, which is equipped with guard rails.
Icelandic design firm Stokkar og Steinar, who are also responsible for the popular art installation Þúfa, designed the path to facilitate greater wheelchair access, which is largely lacking across Iceland.
The project was carried out in cooperation with the Environment Agency of Iceland, local landowners, and the municipal authorities.
One of the project’s primary objectives is to direct traffic along a demarcated path to prevent damage to the surrounding rock and vegetation caused by desire trails.
At the same time, the agency wanted to increase wheelchair access, making it easier for those with physical disabilities to enjoy the “pearls” of Icelandic nature with greater ease and freedom.
The Environment Agency of Iceland pointed out that visitor traffic to the area far exceeds the amount of parking available, and that the area has erosion from heavy foot traffic, among other problems.
In response, the Agency has improved infrastructure at the park and attempted to stem foot traffic, while increasing patrols to obstruct disrespectful tourism behaviours.
Because of a lack of accountability, tourists in the area have not followed the rules set in place to protect it; thus, it’s been difficult to cultivate new vegetation in certain areas of the park, particularly along the edges of the canyon.
A walkway can’t undo the damage, but it can prevent further erosion from foot traffic.
The walkway itself is an elevated gravel path, 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) wide. Geogrid, a geosynthetic material used to reinforce soil and similar materials, is used under sections of the path to inhibit the soil and rock from blending together, while also preventing the path from becoming swampy.